November 16, 2015 / 8:14 PM / 2 years ago

U.N. plans to move troops to Central African Republic from Ivory Coast

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Monday it plans to redeploy some 300 peacekeepers to Central African Republic from a U.N. mission in Ivory Coast in a bid to boost security ahead of the country's planned December elections and a visit by Pope Francis.

The Senegalese troops from the U.N. quick reaction force in Ivory Coast would be redeployed as soon as possible for about eight weeks "in light of the ongoing tense security situation," said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will send a letter to the U.N. Security Council requesting approval for the move. The 15-member body is likely to give the greenlight, diplomats said.

The landlocked former French colony descended into inter-religious violence some two and a half years ago after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, sparking reprisal killings by Christian anti-balaka militias.

Seleka later handed power over to a transitional government under heavy international pressure. Long-delayed presidential and parliamentary elections are due to take place on Dec. 27.

A U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the troops from the Ivory Coast mission would likely be deployed before a planned visit by Pope Francis later this month.

At least 22 people were killed in a string of raids on villages in Central African Republic last week.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic will also be boosted with an additional 750 troops and 140 police. The mission currently has some 9,100 peacekeepers and about 1,500 police. It does not need Security Council approval for this increase as it falls within its mandated strength.

The U.N. official has said some of those reinforcements should be in place before the pope's visit.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Alan Crosby

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